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Politics in the digital age. Picture: Rhian Cox

Dead Lies

Lichfield Garrick


Being an Actor is a tough job. Making a living from acting is even harder. So when a professional production derails and has problems on the night, it’s down to the cast to bring off the impossible and keep the wheels turning.

Unfortunately Dead Lies, the first play by crime writer Hilary Bonner, self-described as a story of murder, scandal, and political intrigue, had so much dead weight, that the hard working cast barely managed to drag it to the closing curtain.

On the night, fans of Holby city’s Jeremy Edwards were first to be in the firing line as Illness had struck down the lead and so cast member George Vergis stepped bravely into the role of Peter George, a man soon to be Prime Minister.

This recasting shuffle lead to a hole in the line-up and Vergiss’ original role of Jamie, a political aide, was filled last minute by Gill Jordan, better known in her alter ego of Doreen. Despite having to read her part from the book on stage, she managed at times to keep up the page turning and occasionally make it look like she was scanning some journal, at others though it created some real timing issues.

These two major issues seemed to add a sense of nervousness to the whole play. Alicia Charles, another Holby City and Corrie favourite, did a fine job of papering over the cracks as Kate as did Portia Booroff as the wife of Peter George.

While the cast did all possible to overcome their difficulties, they could do nothing for the play itself. Hilary Bonner, a successful crime novelist, has clearly not yet made the transition to understanding theatre.  Long passages of monologues in this often shouty piece come off as no more than personal rants and no better or incisive as most of the faceless political trolls on social media.

dead lies pic 

Politicians, Boris, Party gate etc, were all fair game and nothing more than familiar indignant fist waving sentiments at the establishment. There’s nothing new there that has not been said a thousand times over, even by less informed voices.

Then there’s the plot. Peter George is a politician on the rise to power and while on the surface he is a man of the people, he hides a scandalous past that is destined to topple him. The fact we are shown this in the first ten minutes by way of a suggestive sexy video clip, means we are simply waiting for the players to eventually find out what we already know.

It all begins to unravel for them when one day the mysterious Marcus arrives threatening blackmail. 

He is the first to be killed, suggesting how this past event of Mr George is worth committing a murder for. It’s getting interesting and so we are intrigued until the revelation that Marcus wasn’t murdered at all and has been the unlikely and tragic victim of a manufacturing fault with his car.

No doubt there will be hundreds more deaths if that particular model is not soon recalled. The fact Marcus just had an accident and might easily have just fallen off a ladder cleaning his guttering instead, means the tension is reset.

Our would-be Prime Minister Mr George is in the clear, but then we find Marcus had approached someone else. It’s a witness to the past sexual goings on of our hero, Stephanie played by Claire Dyson .She’s a socialite, drug taking model from back in the swinging sixties who now wants her financial reward to keep the story quiet.

What follows is a set of improbable coincidences that have the originality of a potato. A dying hack that covers up a murder.  Side note: Are there no healthy investigative journalists not riddled with alcohol and nicotine abuse? It seems not.

 An affair plucked from nowhere to further the framing   element of the story, a weight loss issue that provides the opportunity for a lost piece of jewellery and a vital clue. And a rogue mobile phone with a dialling life of its own that effectively and eventually helps murder and kills off practically the entire cast.  

Director Joe Harmston also seems to have gone wild with his toy box and the high tech staging of video projection was interesting but overdone. Even the continual audio underscoring of our politician campaigning in various UK cities such as Liverpool using, you guessed it, Ferry Across the Mersey and a variety of other popular songs seemed to be a production step way too far. It all detracted rather than added to what could be a convincing social thriller.

Although the plot is borrowed from several well-known thrillers and its element have been tacked together with rusty old paper clips, my hat is firmly off to the sterling cast who just about held this all together. Again, being an actor is tough job. To  Sunday, 29-05-22.

Jeff Grant


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